Like Frau Sally Benz, I was excited to see Frida Kahlo in all her beautiful, feminist glory on the Google homepage today – I love her!
Then I had to ask the question I always ask: “How many women versus men has Google honored this way?”
As often happens, the answer made me want to lose my lunch.
It turns out the special logos are officially known as Google Doodles. The tradition began in 1999 when the Google founders added a stick figure to the regular logo to signify their attendance at the Burning Man Festival. It was so well received they decided to ask Dennis Hwang, then an intern and now “chief doodler”, to create a logo for Bastille Day 2000. A tradition was born and to date Google claims to have created 300 doodles for the United States and 700 internationally that honor holidays and “creativity and innovation.”
According to Google’s design team, women lack both. Of 109 innovators, artists, revolutionaries and creators designated important or interesting enough for a doodle, only 8 have been women. It took eight full years for the Google team to find a woman worthy of the honor, which finally went to French pilot Hélène Boucher in May of 2008. Her doodle could only be viewed on the Google France homepage. The first woman to receive a global doodle was Beatrix Potter, best known as the author of the Tale of Peter Rabbit series, and the second was Mary Cassatt, an American impressionist painter. The third, it seems, is Frida Kahlo.
With all that feminists need to focus on achieving for women in the world – equal pay for equal rights, bodily autonomy, political representation at all levels, actual recognition of women’s humanity – why waste time on who gets a little drawing on Google?
Because we’ve lived with the myth that men created the world and everything good in it for long enough. As long as men get to designate who and what in history is important, young women will continue to learn that all their sex has contributed throughout all of history is their wombs. If we can’t see ourselves as the inventors, artists, revolutionaries and creators that came before, how the hell are we supposed to fashion ourselves into the modern versions? Schools certainly aren’t doing a very good job in this department and since it processes over a billion searches a day, Google plays an increasingly important role in how and what young people learn.
Google, I’ve got some suggestions for you. What about Ada Lovelace, the woman who was the world’s first computer programer and, conveniently, has a whole day dedicated to her celebration? If the guy who created the first nuclear facility in China gets a doodle, Marie Curie certainly deserves one. If you honored the birth of realism, you should also honor the (flawed, yes) godmother of feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft. What about some of the women behind the great social movements in the United States, like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height?
Women also make art and music and write, and not just in the United States. What about Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, the first woman to gain entry into the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence? Bengali writer Ashapoorna Devi wrote appeals for gender and religious equality in widely read novels for both children and adults. Why not honor Miriam Makeba, known as “Mother Africa,” for her cultural role in ending apartheid in South Africa?
Who would you have Google honor with a doodle? I know my suggestions are Western and cis centric at best, so leave your suggestions in the comments – I’ll be sending this post along with the list of names to the doodlers at Google, who claim they take suggestions from the public seriously. I, for one, will be watching.
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